If anyone thought vinyl was dead, think again! It certainly seems to be alive and kicking in Australia if Kellie Jackson’s business is anything to go by. Not only has music lover Kellie been working fulltime making things out of vinyl and LP records for the past six years but she has recently opened a record shop (yep, you remember those?) and café in her hometown of Newcastle, New South Wales, which is already proving that people of all ages still love a decent bit of vinyl. Kellie is also proof that passion can take you a long way …
Tell me about yourself. What is your background?
I’ve been in retail for more than 20 years. I was a state manager for a large retail chain up until 2006 when my father passed away. A few months after he died I quit my job and took a break from working for three months.
Where did the idea to start ‘Bags A Record’ come from and when? And why records?
After realising you can only do nothing for three months I became restless and started looking for things to do. I was out and about one day and out of the corner of my eye I saw a lady with a bag that I thought was made from records. When I had a proper look I saw it was a picture of a record.
I’ve always played and collected records so I decided to try and make a record bag. It was better than doing nothing. It took a lot of research and trial and error before I made a bag that was functional. The first time I took it out I got two orders! Looking back this was the start of everything.
How did you go about making this happen?
I signed up for the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS). It’s a course run by the government where you write a business plan over a six week period. It’s very intense. If your plan is accepted the Federal Government will pay you to work in your own business for one year. I was accepted and off I went. It was fantastic!
Do you work with anyone else?
No, I work alone. Most designers and crafts people do, I think.
Where do you go to source your materials?
I get my materials from dump shops, op shops and people call me to give me their records.
Have you found any interesting or rare records or ‘stuff’ in record sleeves along your travels?
I once was given a collection that had little love notes in various sleeves. They’d fall out everywhere. I tried to find the people they were for but had no luck. Most have birthday or Christmas greetings on the covers with years and dates. Some have notes about the tracks. They’ll say ‘track 4 has a jump 2 minutes in’ or ‘transferred to cassette’. Sometimes I find rare records. I love this. I used to sell them on eBay but now I sell them in my shop.
What, if any, challenges have you faced along the way?
Getting people to understand the concept of what I do. Using an old, some say obsolete, material to make functional beautiful pieces. Some people just don’t get that and never will. Others embrace it wholeheartedly.
You’ve just opened a record store and café which sounds very exciting! Tell me about when and why you decided to do this? Do you sell actual vinyl records as well as your creations?
I took a lease on a small shop last year to use as a studio after I moved to a smaller house. I found people were walking in and asking to buy records. I always wanted to have a record shop but fear always stopped me. I didn’t think I could grade or price records properly and also didn’t think anyone would buy them. How wrong was I! I decided to set up half of my 28 sqm studio as a record shop after about three months. I only opened on weekends and when I was inside making orders.
It took off and I realised I’d outgrown it within four months. When my lease was up I decided to move to the CBD of Cardiff down the road and open a coffee bar as well as a record shop. The studio/shop helped me sort out the design and layout of the new shop. It also allowed me to know what I did and didn’t want in my business.
It’s incredibly exciting for me to have a shop to sell my record wares. And yes, I also sell graded records to play – both 45s and LPs. I have approximately 3000 records to sell at any given time. There is a huge vinyl community in Australia and it’s amazing – full of people of all ages who love records. I set up the shop the way I wanted to look for records and people seem to love it. And my clocks and bags and books sell nicely. They also provide great decoration for the shop. Everything ties in.
What does a typical day involve?
A typical day is making coffee – which is something I’m new to; I’ve never worked in hospitality before – and pricing, cleaning and grading records. Tidying the shop and cleaning. Taking calls to buy record collections and buying record collections. I’m picky about what I buy and only take what will sell. People have to take what I don’t want back with them. I don’t dispose of other people’s records nor am I a dumping ground for vinyl. I’ve yet to have an upset or nasty customer. I think my shop is very welcoming and after 20 plus years of retail I think I can read people pretty well.
I love talking about music and records with my customers, or groupies as I call them. And they love talking back! As soon as people come into the record room I ask if they’d like a coffee or hot drink. Ninety per cent of people have coffee and browse away. It’s rare for a record lover to walk out without buying something.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought?’ moment?
Every day! Whenever I buy an amazing collection I usually sit and stare at it for a while and think about how my 15-year-old self would be in awe of me now. Of how much I wanted certain records but couldn’t afford them when I was growing up.
Pretty much when I open the shop in the morning and close it at night I stare at it and smile and can’t believe this is what I do for a living! And when I pay my employees – I’m very proud to have employees and even prouder that I can pay them!
What do you do in your spare time?
I have no spare time anymore. But when I do I’ll get back into belly dancing and lunch with friends and family. Visit my mum a bit more and probably sleep past 5.30 am!
What inspires you?
When someone loves a record they’ve bought from me – this inspires me to keep going. When people come into my shop and laugh and dance and sing! This inspires me like nothing else. To be able to create a space that people feel comfortable and safe enough to let go in is ‘the ant’s pants’!
I love looking at recycled designs and everyday objects – just to see if I can adapt it with a record. Recycled art and craft is my other obsession. I just can’t get enough of it.
My mother inspires me more than any other person on the planet! She retired as a psychologist last year and promptly started another business within days. I wouldn’t have my shop or business without her unconditional love and support. She’s the bomb! Belief in a person goes a long way. And my dad. He inspires me daily. I talk to him all the time and ask him how I should use a certain tool or fix something (now I’m crying). He’s always with me.
Thanks Amanda for opening up to us about your life and business!